Uproar of the month: a woman, single, living with her parents, already laden with six children, pops out eight more through the miracle of in vitro fertilization (the same way her first six were conceived, BTW). She has since hired a spokesman to leverage a media bidding war for her story…one might assume her attitude right now is, “Hey, I have to pay for all these kids somehow!”
The American public is wondering: in light of this woman’s life situation, why would she want more children? Why would any doctor in his right mind consent to perform this procedure? What sort of quality of life will this entire family have? Those answers may be forthcoming in tonight’s interview with Nadia Suleman on “Dateline.”
What I’m wondering is: how many people in this country are looking at Nadia Suleman and thinking, “I’m so jealous.”
Don’t laugh too hard; there are people out there thinking that, and they mean it. They want to be The Brady Bunch, Eight is Enough, and Just The 10 Of Us in one crazy-huge lump. They turn on TLC to watch shows like Jon & Kate Plus Eight and 17 Kids And Counting with gut-wrenching envy.
In some cases these people are slaves to their reproductive impulses, in others they’re taking God’s command to go forth and be fruitful to a ridiculous extreme, but in either case they’re fully bought into a pervasive societal attitude that we are all here to breed.
I see this attitude a lot. Being a married man of three-plus years, I already hear the phrase “…when you have kids of your own” fairly regularly, and my wife and I are at that point where people are going to start asking us “When are you going to have kids?” on a daily basis. When we get that question now, our response is always, “We don’t want kids.” This is, almost without exception, met with a look of stunned disbelief or a patronizing smile, the latter of which is accompanied by, “Oh, you’ll change your mind.”
That we don’t want to pump out babies is inconceivable to most. I want to know why we’re the freaks.
There are currently an estimated 6.7 BILLION people skittering about Mother Earth right now. This is nearly quardruple the world population a mere 100 years ago. At the current rate of growth we’ll hit nearly nine billion by 2050.
Once upon a time, there was a definite need for us to pitch in and contribute (so to speak). If you grew up in ancient Greece or Rome and saw your thirtieth birthday, congratulations — time for Michael York to escort your ancient carcass to the Lastday festival. Even in the early part of the 20th century living to forty was a feat. With people dropping so easily, of course we had to rut our brains out; we spent millennia on the brink of extinction, so we were literally in a procreate-or-die situation.
Ah, but then science and medicine came along to wipe out a great number of the things that killed us off so blithely. The current world average life expectancy is a shade over 66 years old.
Unfortunately for us and our planet, our instinct to reproduce has not adjusted to the realities of our modern world. We’re running out of space (something we can’t make more of, unless you want to be the guy living on the 100th floor of a hi-rise at the South Pole), we’re running out of resources, and our very presence damages the planet every day.
But, honestly, I’m not at all thinking on such a grand scale when it comes to the subject of passing on the good family name. I’m more selfish than that. I want to be able to sleep through the night without interruption. I want to be able to go to a movie or socialize with friends without having to dig up a babysitter or, worse, pass entirely for want of said sitter. I want to hold onto my modest income and spend it on me.
On that latter note, I know damn well I’m not in a good financial position to afford a child. My wife and I are meeting our expenses now and adding a body to the household would necessitate one of us (me, most likely) getting a second job just to pay for the kid…and this assumes that my wife returns to her job, because even with two jobs I wouldn’t make enough to allow her to play stay-at-home mom. This, of course, means shuffling the kid off to daycare or hiring a nanny until the kid is old enough to go to school. If we’re lucky, we could also ship the child off to an after-school program to look after him for a few more hours, because we wouldn’t get out of our jobs until 6:30 at night…and if I’m VERY lucky, I would actually get to see the kid for a while before I zipped off to my second job. Then my wife could either spend time with the critter, which would cost her the time she needs to develop her side-business; or work on her side-business and leave the kid to entertain itself. I reckon it’d eventually get used to us not being around.
In case I didn’t sell my point clearly enough: raising a child is bloody hard. It takes time. It takes money. It takes Herculean effort. Having a child is so much more than merely popping one out and loving it and trusting that the world will spin in your direction so you can take care of it properly.
I wish, for the sake of the Suleman gang, someone had driven that point home to their mother much sooner.
The views and opinions in the Enterprise blogs are those of the author and are not neccessarily shared by Falmouth Publishing.